Charles Dickens's 1842 trip to America was in some ways a disaster. Dickens was fascinated by the still-evolving American experiment in democracy, and expected his own egalitarian views to be confirmed by his travels there. Instead, what he found repelled him: coarseness, filth, uncomfortable travel, hot and humid weather, a disappointing governmental system, and--worst of all--the institution of slavery. The resulting book about his travels was frankly critical, and it cost him many admirers in America, where he had been as much of an idol as he was in England. AMERICAN NOTES, however, from the perspective of over a century and a half, is a vastly entertaining and informative book, full of Dickens's characteristic humor, descriptive powers, and keen eye for human frailty.
In the introduction he wrote but wasn't included in the original edition of the journal of his first American visit, Dickens admits to being disappointed by the country and people he saw there. As one of his biggest fans reading this after all of his other fiction, I confess that that is exactly my reaction to his American Notes-disappointment. Dickens, still a young writer in 1842 at the time of his first visit, was already a literary star worthy of the dubious … more
Pros: Excellent, entertaining travel log that presents fascinating aspects of American culture. Cons: Not politically-correct, by modern standards. The Bottom Line: If I claimed that this was better than any of Dickens' fiction, would you believe me? Likely not, so I urge you to go and see for yourself! THE SPLENDID STATELINESS OF SIMPLICITY "That this state-room had been specially … more